(Yomiuri: February 19, 2015 – p. 8)
ANA Holdings, the parent company of All Nippon Airways, is considering extending financial support to Skymark, as it fears the struggling airline’s money-making landing slots at Tokyo’s Haneda airport may fall into the hands of rivals. It is looking to become an airline sponsor to take the initiative in formulating a turnaround plan. Meanwhile, increasing attention is being paid to potential bids to sponsor Skymark by foreign carriers down the road.
Skymark operates 36 round-trip flights from and to Haneda, controlling 8% of landing slots available there. ANA fears that it could lose its competitiveness if these routes go to rivals, including foreign carriers. Several foreign companies seem to have an interest in acquiring them.
ANA is also getting nervous about Japan Airlines’ moves.
JAL denies the possibility of extending support to Skymark. “We are interested in helping the airline, but we will not raise our hand [to join a bid for sponsorship],” said President Yoshiharu Ueki at a Feb. 18 press conference. He judged it too early to become a sponsor due to the company’s background of making a turnaround through the injection of public money.
The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport restricts JAL from making new investments and opening new routes till fiscal 2016. ANA predicts that JAL will regain ground once it gets free from these restrictions stated in the so-called “8.10 document.” It calculates that its involvement in Skymark’s turnaround will thus help prevent JAL from taking control of the company.
Integral, a Tokyo-based investment fund, is looking to acquire a controlling stake in Skymark with financial assistance of up to 9 billion yen and to lead its turnaround effort.
Skymark faces a cancellation penalty of up to 700 million dollars from Airbus. Negotiations on this matter are expected to hit a snag without the involvement of airline sponsors. ANA, which is a major client of the French company, expects it can exert influence by acting as a mediator.
Skymark is also soliciting sponsors outside the airline industry. Orix, a leasing business operator, and several others are showing an interest.
Skymark will select sponsors who can help speed up the turnaround process and win the consent of creditors under court supervision. It will include partnership proposals in a turnaround plan that will be handed to the Tokyo District Court by May 29.